Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Real Lesson From Maryland's Voting Problems

The Washington Post had an editorial yesterday skewering election officials in Montgomery and Prince George's counties and Baltimore for the serious voting problems experienced on primary day. Given the problems--from failure to deliver computer cards in many precincts to failure to have a system in place for election boards to communicate with the polling places--some real skewering is in order. As the Post points out, the responsibility for the problems looks to fall most heavily on the local election boards rather than state officials.

But here's perhaps the most important takeaway from the primary day voting difficulties: Even apart from the serious legal issues that led to the judicial rebuke of the legislature's measure allowing early voting outside of home precincts, it doesn't make sense to consider new measures like multiple-day "early" voting when the election boards haven't shown they can run "scheduled" elections in a smooth fashion. Can you imagine the potential chaos--and potential for fraud and chicanery--if the local election boards were required to run elections spanning five days with voters having "multiple choice" precincts?

In today's lingo: "Let's don't go there!" If we place a high premium on election integrity--and what's more important?--let's just ask our election officials to ensure a smooth and clean election on one long-designated day in precincts with known voters. Apparently that task will be challenging enough.